It’s not surprising that Jose Paredes would publish El Juglar, a monthly platter of Spanish poetry, criticism, fiction, prose, and commentary. What’s peculiar is that he aims his highbrow medley at the everyday reader of espanol—which is why 5,000 copies of El Juglar join all the free newsrags in Spanish huddling in lobbies and doorways around Washington.
“The idea to publish on newsprint is to get it out in mass form to the most people possible,” says Paredes, a Chilean native living in Montgomery County. Paredes finances and publishes El Juglar largely on his own—subsidized by a few ads and subscriptions—while he juggles teaching at Oxon Hill High School and pursuing a Spanish literature graduate degree at the University of Maryland.
Paredes seeks a blend of local contributions, works from internationally known authors and poets, and a good dose of the classics. The three 16-page issues published so far feature essays by Nicaraguan great Ruben Dario, interviews with area personalities, poems by Mexican contemporary Jose Emilio Pacheco, short stories, and even dispatches about local soccer. There are also originals by Paredes—no slouch himself with six books of poetry and fiction to his credit.
Paredes says the local void of Spanish literary fare inspired El Juglar, named for medieval Spanish troubadours who spread the news in the days before Gutenberg. Paredes hopes El Juglar will cajole Latino immigrants now struggling to learn English to remember their culture, while still luring Spanish-as-a-second-language readers. But he’s also angling for Latino mothers.
“My heartfelt wish is that it appeals to the moms,” he says, “because they are the ones who carry our heritage to the children, and in that way keep the mother tongue alive.”
The Hyattsville Library in Prince George’s County recently hosted readings from El Juglar, and the program returns next spring. For now, Paredes seeks collaborators in local poets, storytellers, scholars—and of course, wordsmithing soccer fans.
“In my eyes,” says the publisher, “soccer can be just as serious as a poem.”—Tom Stabile